Thanks to the supply chain manager´s Christmas wish list compiled by Karolina Maziliauskaite in 2014, supply chain managers finally had a wish list that could help them tackle the main supply chain management issues at that time. Although, in general, holiday wish lists have not changed a lot in the past two years (gift cards, clothing, electronics and toys remained the top Christmas presents), the supply chain manager´s wishes did. So, pick up your pens and get them ready to copy down the new wish list items, as well as some which have carried over from 2014.
A batch of fresh SCM talent – still needed
Talent is still needed. But the requirements have changed due to digitalization: supply chain managers today are confronted with the task of optimizing their delivery performance to keep pace with exemplary benchmarks such as Amazon and Uber. They must look for opportunities that digitalization offers, including implementing concepts such as tracking and tracing or the integration of computer aided planning into everyday services. With rising expectations and requirements, the competition for top supply chain talent will be exceptionally difficult in 2017.
Unfortunately, there are countless amounts of people who are not even aware of the supply chain industry despite the fact that many interesting opportunities are offered. Current business degree programs seem to limit the scope of opportunities within the supply chain to lorry drivers, warehouse and general assembly line workers. In reality, there are many more areas where SCM talent is needed. For example, the role of change management within the supply chain industry is growing in importance.
Every company, regardless of its size and the industry it operates in, needs talented people to help boost profitably and secure market share. That is why we need Santa’s eyes on this topic first.
Done reading the Big Data 101 handbook? – new wish: appropriate software
Today, the amount of available data in supply chains is still overwhelming, and it continues to grow. That being said, fortunately, the uncertain and underdeveloped times of big data analytics are over. Christmas 2016, Santa´s elves can throw away the Big data 101 handbook and put together business intelligence software for supply chain management. According to Gartner, the business intelligence and analytics market is about to reach US $ 16.9 billion this year in global revenue. This means an increase of 5.2 percent from 2015. For Ian Bertram, managing vice president at Gartner, “the shift to the modern BI and analytics platform has now reached a tipping point”. The consulting company states there is no longer any way around becoming an analytics expert, which is true for supply chain managers as well as many other functions within an organization (human resource, marketing and financial).
The analytics of big data helps supply chain managers improve transparency and gain insights into the supply chain. This way, they can better respond to volatile demand or supply chain risk and proactively take chances. This makes BI software a definite must-have on the 2016 Christmas wish list.
Add some flair to your supply chain by introducing blockchain technology
Within the framework of big data, a new technology appeared more frequently in 2016: blockchain. Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger in which value exchange transactions are sequentially grouped into blocks. Each block is chained to the previous block and recorded across a peer-to-peer network, using cryptographic trust and assurance mechanisms. Blockchain and distributed-ledger concepts attract attention from many industries because they hold the promise to transform industry operating models. While the current hype is mainly around the financial services industry, there are many possible applications, including supply chain management and logistics. Therefore, Santa Claus should keep an eye on this trending technology or otherwise, the wish list will be submitted to him as a smart contract next year.
Better visibility goggles with augmented reality functions
Transparency has been and will continue to be one of the most popular supply chain topics. Nowadays, the required details about production processes and systems are provided by software. But additionally, immersive technologies, such as augmented reality, are transforming the way supply chain managers interact with one another and with software systems. Especially across supply chains and logistics operations, the new smart glasses can bring additional opportunities for work processes and transparency.
Smart glasses enable workers, for instance, to see working instructions in the warehouse, production or other workplaces across the supply chain, directly in their surroundings. For example, Lufthansa Industry Solutions is testing the use of these wearables for order picking. In this case, the smart glasses show the employees order items together with the storage location. Also, DHL started working with the AR aided glasses in a Dutch distribution center as a pilot project. Results of the pick-by-vision experiment included a 25 percent rise in efficiency. Since the successful pilot project, the company has rolled the glasses out to several other storage locations.
Shorter lead times in order picking and lower error rates are always on the supply chain manager´s wish list. Therefore, these glasses shouldn´t be missing on the Christmas wish list!
A 3D printer
3D printing has become all the hype in various business branches. But Santa, please, also include supply chain managers when distributing the new 3D printers around the world. When they are further implemented, they will be able to transform global supply chains. Imagine spare parts being printed directly on-site when needed. Supply chains and their management will be able to eliminate long fulfillment times when it comes to spare parts if they can directly print the parts.
Considering the costs, it is often more expensive to stop the production or wait for the part instead of just printing it.
And finally… just a little bit more time
Reading my own blog so far makes me wonder what will be on my wish list next year. I can’t shake the feeling that the industry is in a “full speed ahead” situation due to the rising influx of new technologies and their growing importance for supply chain managers. Sometimes supply chain managers may feel it is hard to keep up with all the trends, while at the same time managing all the complex supply chain management processes.
So, dear Santa, give us a little bit more time to keep pace with the new supply chain technologies.
Closing, contemplative thoughts
The supply chain manager´s 2016 wish list obviously shows that new technology and digitalization are on the rise and will change the requirements and challenges in the supply chain. Sometimes, it is also important to take some time to keep up with the fast changing and emerging technologies to ensure that you are aware of all the possibilities available. The supply chain world is changing very quickly, so be excited about a new, interesting supply chain management year. I hope, at least Santa Claus noticed the new opportunities first of all, and is delivering on time.
What would you include on this year’s supply chain manager Christmas wish list?
Header Photo: Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/shutterstock.com
Photo in text: Shutterstockphoto3/shutterstock.com